Whose Fault is it Anyway?

SFE Attorney: Cliff Wilson

Plaintiff Attorney: Paul Galm

City, Co., State: Washington County Circuit Court, Oregon

Claims Alleged: Personal Injury and Property Damage

Injuries Alleged: Soft Tissue

Admitted Liability: No

Amount Claimed: $16,505.53

The Overview

Team Cliff Wilson recently won a complete defense award in a hotly disputed liability case.  The case in question was a typical car collision in which each driver claimed that the other was at fault in the accident. The true test would turn out to be Cliff’s ability to quickly salvage the testimony of a crucial no-show witness in order to obtain a complete defense award.

The Background

This case involved the classic “he said she said” scenario. In January of 2012, plaintiff and defendant were both driving on the same street when they reached the intersection of NE Martin Luther King Blvd., and ne couch St. According to defendant, the accident occurred when he was travelling in the right hand lane and plaintiff pulled out in front of him from the lane to defendant’s left, attempting to make a last minute right hand turn from the center lane without a signal. Defendant admitted that he hit the left corner of plaintiff’s vehicle with his front bumper because of plaintiff’s erratic maneuver. Defendant remembered slamming on his brakes in an attempt to avoid hitting plaintiff’s vehicle. On the other hand, plaintiff alleged the accident occurred when plaintiff was making a legal right turn at the intersection and defendant rear-ended him.

Examination of the damaged vehicles gave no conclusive evidence as to who caused the accident. The only witnesses to the accident were plaintiff, defendant, and a passenger in plaintiff’s car. Obtaining this passenger’s testimony was the crux of breaking the debate of whose story to believe. And Cliff soon found out it was not an easy task.

Plaintiffs Theme

In their attempt to deny liability, Plaintiff focused on proving Defendant was the sole cause of the accident. Plaintiff claimed he was making a perfectly legal turn at the intersection when Defendant rear-ended him out of nowhere. Plaintiff also attempted to rope in Defendant’s employer by alleging Defendant was operating under the regular scope and course of business at the time of the accident. Plaintiff urged Defendant had failed to maintain a proper lookout, and failed to maintain proper control of his vehicle.

Our Strategy

The The plaintiff did not make it easy for Cliff to work up the case.  In fact all of the discovery documents that our defense team requested for case were not provided until four months after the deadline.  When the plaintiff’s passenger was deposed, it turned out that he did not agree with the plaintiff’s view of how the accident happened.  In fact, he stated that the plaintiff did turn from the wrong traffic lane, which ended up supporting the defense’s argument.  Cliff never actually met the plaintiff in the case, who ended up being deposed over the phone. 

On the evening before the arbitration, Team Wilson got wind that the plaintiff’s passenger, who was key to the case, might be getting cold feet when it came to testifying.  Realizing that if he didn’t testify it would have a dramatic impact on the case, Cliff wrote a motion to allow his testimony from the deposition to be allowed in as evidence.

The Outcome

Sure enough, on the daySure enough, on the day of the arbitration the plaintiff’s passenger did not appear.  When they attempted to reach him by phone, they discovered that the phone was disconnected.  Cliff’s motion to allow the deposition transcript was granted. Due to Team Wilson’s advocacy, the arbitrator awarded a complete defense award!  Our client was extremely pleased with the result, and is hoping that this verdict will dissuade any future liability claims or lawsuits.

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